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Serena Kay made a personable Smeton and her performance of Smeton's opening lute song was very attractive. Tod Wilander seemed under used in the small role of Lord Hervey. Wilander sang the title role in Roberto Devereux at Buxton, and Leicester in Maria Stuarda for the Chelsea Opera Group, but he is also singing Sam Polk in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah on this tour.

The small, hard-working chorus worked very well and sounded on good form, though at the moment there were one or two places where communications with the pit seemed a little uncertain. The orchestra were similarly hard-working and gave a convincing performance of Donizetti's score, under the able direction of Michael Lloyd.

Riccardo Simonetti (Henry VIII) and Julia Unwin (Anne Boleyn) with members of the chorus
Riccardo Simonetti (Henry VIII) and Julia Unwin (Anne Boleyn) with members of the chorus

Apart from his introduction of Cranmer and Mary Tudor, director James Conway's production was quite traditional and all the more welcome for that. After all, this tour will introduce the opera to many people who have not had the chance to see it before, and Conway presents the drama in a straightforward and convincing way, enabling his talented and hard-working cast to give strong performances. The last stage production of this opera that I can recall was Covent Garden's staging for Dame Joan Sutherland, so I applaud ETO's daring, commitment and conviction as well as its ability to bring the whole thing off so brilliantly.

Copyright © 15 March 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK



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